The Pointlessness of US Political Journalism

US political journalism just receive the coup de grace and the Beutler did it.

Brian Buetler wrote “Hillary Clinton’s Relationship With the Press Is Broken—and It Can’t Be Fixed.” This doesn’t sound very enthusiastic, but I think the article shows that the problem is much much worse than the title suggests.

Beutler asks whose fault it is that Clinton doesn’t hold press conferences. He risks his guild card by arguing that the main problem is that she (and he) know that reporters would ask stupid questions based on “their fixations on trivia and optics.”

But his examples are much more appalling than one might imagine. Consider
“questions to ask about hacked DNC emails and the resignation of party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz”, and “questions—about whether it was appropriate for the Clinton Foundation to operate as it did during her years at the State Department—and questions that could resolve lingering inconsistencies between her public statements about her email protocols and those of FBI Director James Comey. ”

Yes those are stupid questions about trivia and optics. They have nothing to do with policy. The issues will not be discussed in history books. I think it would be much better if she were asked about the facts that UnitedHealth and Aetna are cutting back health insurance offerings on the exchanges, the risk of an adverse selection death spiral, and what would she do about that if Congress refuses to enact a public option or Medicare buy in. Or what would she do about undocumented aliens. Or hey the globe is still warming — does she think Obama has done enough already ? I’d even settle for letting Matt Yglesias ask about nominal GDP targeting (because I am that desperate).

But the actually appalling thing is the quoted questions are Beutler’s examples of relatively substantive questions which he contrasts with the ones based on “trivia and optics.” Yes e-mail server protocols are as close as he can imagine the political press getting to issues which matter for ordinary people. The best questions he hopes address insider baseball, pseudo scandals and issues raised by GOP oppo researchers. He is a lot younger than I am, but he isn’t naive enough to imagine that policy proposals might be discussed at a press conference.

Also see two brilliant hard working young blogger/journalists writing about when Clinton will hold her next press conference.

The MSM is hopeless. Its only defense is that at least it is better than Twitter.